Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver was released last week, so what better time than now to go back to Hot Fuzz? It’s ten years old this year, if you can believe that! Hot Fuzz is the second film in Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. For me, it’s my second favourite. Shaun of the Dead is the more refined movie. That’s not to disparage Hot Fuzz in any way. The former is leaner, the second is a little bloated. Its length is the main reason I prefer Shaun of the Dead over Hot Fuzz. However, Hot Fuzz is both a cracking comedy and a great action film. It gets funnier every time I watch it.
Hot Fuzz is Edgar Wright’s version of a buddy cop comedy/action film. Simon Pegg stars as perfect cop Nicolas Angel. He’s transferred to Sandford, a quiet village in Gloucestershire. He’s so good he’s been making his London colleagues look back. Sandford promises nothing but boredom and the company of Danny Butterman (played by Nick Frost). However, people start dying in mysterious circumstances, and Angel begins to thinks there’s more to Sandford than meets the eye.
“Everyone and their mums is packin’ around here”
I’ll try not to spoil anything here for those of you who haven’t seen it, but Hot Fuzz’s story is one of its many excellent aspects. It’s a classic British mystery, with hints of Agatha Christie mixed with the mundanity of Heartbeat. There are twists and turns along the way. You’re guessing throughout the first two acts if Angel is right about Sandford, and who could be behind the deaths if he is right. From this point of view, it’s a more interesting narrative than Shaun of the Dead (and most of Wright’s films). Shaun of the Dead was about evading the zombie apocalypse. This asks the audience to ask what, exactly, is going on.
However, it doesn’t forget that, first and foremost, it’s a comedy. Wright and Pegg have comedy flowing through them (not literally) and this is perhaps the zenith of their comedic collaboration. The first time you watch Hot Fuzz, you’ll laugh a lot. But during those laughs, you’ll miss smaller gags. The second time you watch it, you’ll still laugh a lot, both at gags you remember and gags you missed. But you’ll still miss some gags. There’s a reason why I put the movie in my Top 10 List of Films I’ve Seen More Than Five Times (click here for that list!). Even when viewing hit double figures, there’ll be a visual gag or a background detail that you haven’t noticed before.
Lines of dialogue set up future gags, reference previous gags, are jokes in themselves, are part of a running gag…I watched ‘Airplane’ for the first time last year. I’d be so bold as to say that Hot Fuzz is funnier than that. Maybe I’m viewing Hot Fuzz through some nostalgia tinted glasses (I saw it at the cinema, and every member of the audience got a Shaun of the Dead DVD and a Hot Fuzz poster!), but even thinking about some of the gags in Hot Fuzz makes me smile. Some jokes are rude, some are clever, some are witty, but for a ratio of hits to misses, Hot Fuzz is firmly in favour of hits.
“You’re a doctor, deal with it”
The other half of Hot Fuzz is the action. And it’s here, in the third act of the film, that events start to drag a little. Edgar Wright obviously had a horde of action genre influences he wanted to reference (most are explicitly referenced in the film) and wanted to include them all. From Bad Boys II to Point Break, we see a snippet of actual footage of the film and then Wright’s version of the snippet in the final act. The action may be good, but it’s not great. I never think of the action when I think of Hot Fuzz; I think of the action combined with the dialogue. So while the final act is Wright’s love letter to the action genre, it’s a love letter that’s too long. He works better when he is actually parodying those action movies, such as the scene when Angel and Danny run away from a potentially explosive mine. They run towards the camera, jump over the bush…but no explosion happens. Instead, towards in the final act, Wright simply copies parts of films he’s already shown us.
If Wright had contained himself to a running time similar to Shaun of the Dead and curtailed the duration of the final act, then there’d be no doubt that Hot Fuzz would be the superior film. For the first two acts, it works both as a hilarious comedy and an intriguing murder mystery. Pegg and Frost have an easy chemistry from working together for a long time. They’re complemented by a cracking cast, full of classic British actors (plus The Hound from Game of Thrones!). It’s just a shame than Wright forgets about parody and leaps into an unconvincing love letter to action films in the third act.
VERDICT: 8/10. Hot Fuzz is one of the funniest movies ever. You can quote me on that! Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a third act that focuses more on the enjoyment of action that the parody of it.
Leave your thoughts/opinions below!